Lincoln County History

Lincoln County: A Brief History

In 1776, when the United States was declaring its independence, there had yet to be a written account of what is now the central Oregon coast. In 1778 Captain James Cook passed by the southern coast, naming Cape Perpetua, and then headed northward passing Yaquina Bay to Cape Foulweather. Cook, inspired by the rough weather he encountered, named Cape Foulweather. Through the mid-1800s trappers ventured south from the Hudson Bay Company, headquartered at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. In 1849 Lt. Theodore Talbot explored the Oregon coast and recorded only 85 Yacona Indians living in the Yaquina Bay area.

Oyster Barges, 1890

Oyster Barges, 1890

The history of the central coast was changed forever in 1855 when the United States established a 1.3 million-acre reservation. More than 4,000 people from 20 different tribes, including the remaining Yacona and Alsea, were resettled on this reservation. The location was chosen because the government deemed the area unfit for farming and inaccessible. The natives relocated to the reservation suffered from lack of food and housing as well as cultural differences among the tribes.

In 1861, two events again changed the course of history. A sea captain was shown beds of rare, delicate oysters in Yaquina Bay. Companies from San Francisco came to harvest the oysters, creating conflicts with payment to reservation Indians and depleting the supply within a few years.

About the same time, regular troops on the reservation were needed for the Civil War; they were replaced by volunteer soldiers who saw the possibilities of the area and lobbied to open up the land.

Responding to this pressure, the government opened the Yaquina Bay area to non-Indian settlement in 1866. Reservation employees, fur traders, commercial fisherman, and others seeking opportunity and free land staked their claims.